Ageing is a natural process and it happens to all of us. As time goes on, we can't help but focus on what ageing means for each of us. Many of us fear it, some of us resist it but the truth is that we can't get away from it. But everyone doesn't age at the same pace and it reflects differently on different individuals. The need of the hour is to age gracefully and maintain the best of health for any given age. Our food, lifestyle, environment and mental health are all factors that contribute to the way we age. Some of us associate ageing with the limitation of physical and mental capacities. Others focus on the visible aspects of ageing, the way it changes the way we look. At a biological level, the ageing process involves damage at a cellular and molecular level. Today we are looking at a life expectancy of 70-80 years, unlike that of our predecessors. And our diet is one of the factors that has the greatest impact on our health and on how we age.
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Sugar is a part of our daily and diet and sweet treats are hard to resist for almost all of us. But more and more research is pointing to the detrimental effect of excessive intake of sugars on overall health. As we age, the probability of non communicable diseases increases, obesity is difficult to reverse and this itself leads to added mobility restrictions and a host of other health problems. Studies have indicated that excessive sugar intake affects all the organs and hastens the onset of health issues. Let's take a look at a few of them:
This is the outcome of excessive calorie intake and not burning enough of them. Unfortunately, sugar provides only empty calories. It doesn't contain any useful nutrients. In addition the hormonal imbalance that can be created by sugar intake, it further increases the cravings for more sweets. Most sweets are also high in fat and contain refined cereals which make them even more dangerous.
2. Heart Health
The consumption of excessive sugary foods that lack other nutritive value has been shown to increase the risk of heart diseases. While the exact cause may still be unclear, scientific evidence suggests that the intake of sugary drinks has an adverse effect on blood pressure and we already know that excess sugar is converted to fat by the liver. These factors contribute towards the poor health of our cardiovascular system.
3. Insulin Resistance
Whether you are a diabetic or not, the excess consumption of sugar leads to increased insulin resistance. This means higher blood sugar levels and an overworked pancreas. Whereas short term insulin resistance can be reversed, chronic hyperinsulinemia is detrimental to our health.
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4. Brain Health
Our brain consumes the half of our glucose for its functioning. Inadequate sugar levels can lead to a breakdown in communications between the neurons and nerve cells, as the neurotransmitters and chemical messengers are not produced in adequate amount. We need adequate carbs to fulfil this need, however excess sugar is known to have an adverse effect. High sugar intake affects the cognitive power of the brain and has an impact on memory retention. Diabetic patients, who have uncontrolled sugars, have been seen to experience a shrinkage of brain function, and even atrophy.
5. Skin Health
The elasticity and suppleness of our skin is dependent on the presence of collagen and elastin. Increased sugar intake leads to cross-linking of collagen and the skin becomes more stiff. Excess sugar is also linked to acne, wrinkling of the skin, sagging especially around the chin and neck, and dark spots.
6. DNA Damage
In a study published in the American Journal of public health that correlated consumption of sugary drinks and DNA, it was found that telomeres, little protective caps at the end of chromosomes, were shorter in people who consumed more sugary drinks. Every time our DNA is read or duplicated, the telomeres shortens. This process is accelerated by excess sugar and hastens the ageing process which may be connected to heart diseases, diabetes, and some cancers.
To sum it up, you don't need to give up your daily cup of tea or coffee and you can even add 1/2-1 tsp of sugar to it. Just limit your consumption to a cup or two in a day. The foods you really should be wary of are sugary drinks, sports drinks, processed foods including savoury foods like sauces, soups, ketchup, namkeens, tomato paste etc. Read the labels to become aware of hidden sugars and use fresh ingredients as much as possible. Another kind of food to be wary of are bakery products and ultra refined foods as these can also add the extra sugars.
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.
About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.